Pandemic Message

Pandemic Update: For updates on the current status of each opportunity, please contact the Advisor listed, or for courses, check the linked Class Roster page.


Terms and Dates:

  • Winter 2021


Ndunge Kiiti

Cornell Affiliations:

Global Learning, SC Johnson Business - Dyson


SMART Program


Opportunity Description

The Student Multidisciplinary Applied Research Teams (SMART) Program is a unique service learning program of the Emerging Markets Program (EMP). SMART brings together teams of both graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and staff from across the university and pairs them with small companies, organizations, and community groups located in developing countries and emerging economies.

SMART teams work to address a specific need identified by their international partner. Students work on well-defined assignments challenging them to apply classroom knowledge and skills in real world international development settings. students contribute technical assistance and analytical support, present their research and analyses, and then return to Cornell to develop publishable case studies and other materials to enrich learning in university classrooms and executive education programs.

The objectives of the program are to:

  • Provide students with an innovative service learning experience working with underserved businesses, NGOs, universities, and rural communities in developing countries.
  • Offer students a greater understanding of private and public sector led economic development.
  • Improve student’s analytical abilities to develop case studies and other academic analyses of emerging markets issues.
  • Facilitate learning to work in a multidisciplinary team to conduct problem-solving research in emerging markets.
  • Provide technical assistance and analytical support to underserved businesses, NGOs, and communities.

With its internationalization mission, Cornell aims to ensure that international education, research, and engagement are woven into academic life structures that cut across college/department barriers. It encourages international partnerships, engaged learning and research opportunities for students involving meaningful international experiences linked to their curricula. Through the SMART Program, EMP extends this aspiration, provides international service learning and problem-solving experiences for Cornell students, and models meaningful engagement with community, government, and emerging markets business partners.

You can take a self-guided tour of the 2020 International Annual Symposium which is populated with student research projects (e.g. posters, videos, photos, etc.) from the 2019-2020 academic year. The projects were diverse and represent unique sectors including: dairy, food safety, dried fruit and flour, digital agriculture, sweet potatoes (bread/snacks), honey and fingerlings.

2020-2021 SMART Projects

The 'New' Focus

COVID-19 will forever change the global MSMEs landscape. For the 2020-2021 academic year, the SMART Program will focus on the opportunity, created by this crisis. Students will explore how academia, especially the field of business collaboratively working across disciplines, can engage with MSMEs to better understand, document and effectively respond to the impact of COVID-19 around the world. The program will be research oriented with no field experience or travel component.

At a glance, SMART 2020-2021 will include the following components:

  • 8 teams with 4-6 students per team (6 teams focused on African companies and 2 teams working with Asian companies)
  • Fall ‘20—Info Sessions | Applications | Team Creation/Planning | AEM 4415 Course
  • Spring ‘21—AEM 4421 | Team Data Collection | Presentations | Symposium

The Research Tasks

  • Survey—The focus will be on collecting data on how MSMEs in Africa and Asia have been impacted by COVID (EMP Team in the Fall)
  • Analysis of Survey Data—Students will use the survey data to better understand the COVID-19 situation in emerging markets while using it to design interview guides for their host company.
  • Secondary Data—This will be a collection of data which are focused on the macro and micro issues to capture the current COVID situation at various levels--global, regional, national and local/community and individual.
  • Virtual Interviews—Students will focus their in-depth interviews on their ‘host’ company while complementing that with data gathered from other relevant businesses and organizations within the specified region.

The Companies

  1. Botswana: Sereledi Farms (dairy)
  2. Kenya: Azuri Health Ltd. (dried fruits)
  3. Kenya: M-Farm (digital agriculture)
  4. Rwanda: The Carl Group (OFSP products)
  5. Indonesia: Cau Chocolate (chocolate)
  6. Philippines: Soyuz Foods (native fruit products)
  7. Uganda: Golden Bees Ltd. (honey & apiculture)
  8. Zambia: Palabana Fisheries (fish/fingerlings)

More information is available on the SMART Program Website. If you have any questions regarding the program, please email Dr. Ndunge Kiiti at